Familiar faces will highlight the Canisius College women’s cross country roster in 2013. The top seven runners return from 2012, highlighted by senior Mikelle Cala who placed first for Canisius in all six events.
The opposite can be said for the men’s squad, who after recording its highest finish at the MAAC Championship in more than a decade, will see just two of its top-five runners compete in 2013. Chad Maloy – top finisher in each of the Griffs’ races last season – will redshirt the 2013 season.
However, head coach Nate Huckle feels as though his freshman class is talented enough to replace the talent from the men’s roster, and bolster the depth on the women’s.
Cooper Roach and Michael Anvelt are the only two Griffs returning on the men’s side that placed in the top-five during any of their events last season. In 2013, they are expected to play a leadership role.
“They’re both extremely talented,” Huckle said. “Mike was our second finisher at the MAAC Championships and Cooper was our second finisher at the NCAA Regionals, so neither shy away from big competition. I’m expecting them to be our leaders on the courses and to be consistently in our top three runners.”
Chris Savageau, Joseph Schnitter and team captain Andrew Coy also return to the Canisius roster and could use their experience to crack the top five at points during the season.
With the lack of returners, the freshmen will be relied on heavily in 2013. Canisius has eight freshmen on the roster, including two New York State Champions in high school – Brennan Root in the steeple chase and Jeffrey Antolos who won two state cross country championships.
“This is probably the best freshman recruiting class that we’ve ever had at Canisius,” Huckle said. “I feel pretty comfortable saying that it’s better than our class last year because we’ve got more depth. I don’t think we’ve ever had this much talent and depth at the same time in this program, and I’m very excited about it.”
The surprise thus far has been freshman Xavier Savageau, who finished first in the team’s time trial.
“For him to come in and be ahead of not only our other freshmen, but out top returners as well, it was a nice surprise,” Huckle said. “He’s just another guy who I wasn’t originally counting on, who can come in and make a big impact.”
The women finished sixth at the 2012 MAAC Championships last year, but the team remains nearly entirely intact from last season, bringing key experience to the 2013 season.
All seven runners who cracked the top five for Canisius return for the women. Cala, Morgan Atkins and Jamie Wallace highlight the roster, all finished in the top three in every event last season. They are joined by Robin Wagner, Brandi Pettit and Mary Kate Chambers who each finished in the Griffs’ top five last season.
“They’re all stronger than they were last year,” Huckle said. “Every person ran faster than at the time trial last year, some of them significantly faster. I think everyone is in great shape.”
With so many key returners back in the Griffs’ lineup, the freshmen on the women’s roster are expected to tighten the gapping at the top of the roster.
“We essentially doubled our talent on the women’s roster,” Huckle said. “We took every one of our top runners last year and we have an incoming runner that can match up with them. So we’re really twice as deep as we were last year, which is great for our compression.”
Haley Keene qualified for the New Balance Indoor Track Nationals, and brings high-level competition experience to the roster. Macey Walker and Katie Kerr are also expected to factor in this season for the Griffs. Catherine Phillips is also a new addition to the roster as a senior transfer, and Huckle expects her to play a role as well.
“I think the women are going to have that drastic step forward towards the top-tier of the MAAC this year,” Huckle said.
Canisius opens the 2013 season Friday, Aug. 30, when it hosts the annual Little Three Championship. The Griffs are the reigning champions, and have swept both the men’s and women’s titles each of the last six seasons. The race will take place at Delaware Park with the women going off at 6 p.m. and the men at 6:45 p.m.